Artist VS Craftsman: How to avoid another Lindy Hop “Style Wars”
Most of the dancers that I’ve seen and been inspired by the last 23 years come from two distinct parts of one puzzle. Simply put. One being the Artist who create things, and the other being the craftsman who generally preserves that which is created. The first has a gift to easily access their imagination and share it with others. The second has a gift to analyze, and codify that which is created to help preserve the art for future generations. From my observation,t his same wonderful dynamic exist in the Lindy Hop community.
However, the climate in the community may not understand the purpose in both, and anytime the purpose for something is misunderstood error is inevitable. I’m writing this article to help you discover the ARTIST or CRAFTSMAN in yourself so that you like I over time can add your special contribution to the dance. The following paragraphs will shed light on my perspective of this amazing balance that makes up the forever evolving dance we call the Lindy Hop.
I love the CRAFTSMAN. Being a dancer that leans more on the side of the ARTIST, I realized when I jumped into the lindy hop that I needed dancers who understood clearly how the mechanics of the dance functioned in the current day. I had to avoid my creative peers for a season, so that I could understand how the common language of the now worked, which in turn would allow me to dance with the highest amount of people no matter what style or region on the dance floor today.
The CRAFTSMAN for me was a God send. In my observation within the lindy hop context, many of the C’s that I’ve taken dance from all started their dance journey learning how to Lindy hop when there was no common language. They had to develop the common language after the roles and purposes of the artist and craftsman were misunderstood. This error lead to the infamous “style wars” at the beginning of the 21st century that I happily missed. The Craftsman’s greatest strength is in knowing the “principles behind the movement.”
Craftsman have such an important role to fill. In my opinion, it should be focused on duplicating the principles to empower dancers with a common language general enough so that they can add their style. In addition, the Craftsman can learn to stretch themselves by learning from the ARTIST.
Craftsman normally are not praised for the razzle dazzle in their movements, but more for the quality and clarity that hold them together. These dancers are the preservers and tend to be more comfortable refining than creating. They are great assets in keeping the social dancing aspect of the culture alive.
These individuals tend to “create” movements drawn from burst of inspiration. They generally have amazing visualization skills and are very comfortable not knowing all the details during the creative process. They generally are the ones who inspire people into Lindy Hop. These people are the ones many dancers watch for inspiration. These dancers would rather ask for “forgiveness” than “permission.”
In many cases, some of the things they do in the moment normally are rejected, then ridiculed, and eventually accepted. Sometimes their work is under appreciated until many years later. As an artistic dancer much of my inspiration now comes from watching craftsmen, so that I can “improve” technically on my artistic creations.
I’m also inspired by other Artistic dancers who indirectly push me to keep growing creatively and ignore many of the limits we subconsciously impose on the dance whenever we stop taking risk. (See article How to find the magic moments in Jack and Jill’s) Hellzapopin’ is such a fantastic example of an ARTISTIC expression that Lindy Hoppers use today.
If it were not for this video most of the craftsman wouldn’t have anything to codify. If it were not for the craftsman who preserved the “essence” of the dance, artist like me wouldn’t have a template to express myself creatively within current language of the dance and expand it further today.
When I jumped into Lindy Hop I asked different teachers who I should study to master the basic mechanics that would allow me to dance with most of the people in the culture today. They were so generous and pointed me to a handful of dancers.
I developed a CA chart (Craftsman/Artist) so that I could monitor my growth, and see how far I developed into myself over time. My chart looked like this: Skye Humphries, Mike Roberts, Peter Strom, Dax Hock, Jeremey Oth, Todd Yanacone, Nick Williams, Kevin St. Laurant, Michael Faltesek, Max Pitruzzella, Thomas Blancharz, Nathan Bugh.
The chart goes from extreme CRAFTSMAN to extreme ARTIST from my perspective. After gaining some knowledge I would grow a little more and stretch myself as the movements became a part of my body. The more I learned from the craftsman, the faster I could unlock myself as an ARTIST. The more I mastered a shape highlighting a technique, the more inspired I became by new movements from the dancers next on my chart.
Once that occurred I continued in my modeling knowledge until the movements became a part of my natural dance vocabulary. I would continually oscillate between learned knowledge and activity knowledge on the dance floor until I started dancing the techniques with my heart instead of my head. This is the critical point where the real me, “The ARTIST” started to emerge.
Once I was unlocked my ARTISTIC eye made me sensitive to seeing movements from that perspective when I watched other dancers. This helped develop in me a respect for every dancer no matter what level they are on, since I could then be inspired by anyone. In fact most of my new ideas come from shapes I see beginners make that they don’t fully understand, craftsman who help me polish a concept I create, or artist who mess up on an idea that in return spawns a new idea in me.
One is not better than the other, they work in perfect harmony if both understood their role. In fact, if the artist were liberated to express themselves no matter how unpolished or unpopular, the dance would actually grow more rapidly. More people would be inspired by their creations, and artistic dancers as a result would be unlocked everywhere to push the climate for new ideas in an environment that welcomes them.
Craftsmen would also be inspired by this to bring more clarity to those new ideas so they could be taught to others. If the craftsmen were liberated to be themselves they would be able to focus on the principles that allow dancers to express themselves with “anyone” more clearly. They have an even more important job to emphasize the technique to free dancers fundamentally and not to confine them stylistically. Principles are like the imagination, and they let you build new things from them. If craftsmen focus on them, they would be more effective in empowering the next generation faster and with more simplified clarity than the previous generation.
Think of the ARTIST as the accelerator and the CRAFTSMEN as the one who steers. Also think of the CRAFTSMEN as the accelerator and the ARTIST as the one who steers in a new direction. Either way both aspects must be recognized, identified and respected in order for the dance to stay alive. Here is an example of all of them working together:
I am an artist, and love learning the mechanics from craftsman so that I can grow. Most of the time I enjoy creating by myself by visualizing without a partner, but I’m also inspired by other artist to push my limits creatively. I encourage dancers to recognize where your strengths are held, learn from the opposite side and you will liberate yourself even more.
For me the purpose of recognizing both is to help grow and preserve the dance, along with creating a more liberating and harmonious culture for both groups of people. My voice as one who appreciates both is to help others recognize the inevitable underlying purpose in both, and how important their contribution impacts the things we love so much about the dance.
When we embrace the strengths about both artist and craftsmen, we give each other permission to be different and predictable without undermining each other.
Discover in you which personality you are and learn to respect and grow from the other as you mature in the dance. We all must strive to identify the principles that make both function as one. Share this article with those you feel who could benefit. Have a stress free week!